Vice President Mike Pence rode onto a Mahoning Valley stage Thursday as Lordstown Motors unveiled its all electric pickup truck, the Endurance.
The company says it already has orders for 14,000 of the Endurance trucks.
“Ladies and gentleman I give you the Lordstown Endurance," Pence said. The former Indiana governor called himself a truck guy as he praised the Endurance. “I gotta tell you it’s a nice ride.”
Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns touted the truck’s efficiency, equal to 75 miles per gallon—and the development of what powers the truck, hub motors. It means there are only four moving parts on the Endurance—the wheels. He says they chose Lordstown because there’s a work ethic, a skillset and the infrastructure at the former GM plant.
“They were putting out about over 400,000 (Chevrolet) Cruzes a year when it was GM," Burns said. "We think it can put out about 600,000 of our vehicles because they’re much simpler to assemble.”
Lordstown Motors already has about 70 employees, Burns said, and about 100 contractors are also working at the plant, most of them engineers, working to convert the plant for electric automobile assembly. The company will begin hiring more workers as it nears production, Burns said, with a goal of employing 400 line workers to start.
At the plant’s peak production in the 1990s, GM employed more than 10,500 workers at the Lordstown plant, where the first Chevy Impala rolled off the line in 1966. The GM facility employed about 4,500 workers three years ago.
Lordstown Motors hopes to ultimately employ about 5,000 people at full production capacity, Burns said.
“When this facility closed in March of 2019, it was heartbreaking for this community,” Pence said. “On May 8, the president was delighted to get the call. He called it great news for Ohio when Steve Burns bought this building and set into motion the plans to create Lordstown Motors.”
The name “Endurance” holds dual meaning, Burns said at the truck’s unveiling.
“It’s an electric truck and it goes very far on a charge, it’s a very tough truck and it’s built for people who need tough trucks. It can endure,” Burns said. “But the people of this valley have endured.”
Pence says Lordstown Motors is part of a great American comeback that’s following the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Reporter Justin Dennis from Mahoning Matters says the Mahoning Valley is also feeling optimistic about the prospect.
“Everyone is really willing to throw behind Steve Burns and Lordstown Motors Corp. to get them what they need to be successful. I think there’s still a lot of questions about how far that potential could go. The Endurance obviously is an untested vehicle, the demand is untested, but just having that prospect, that spark of something new, something that is promising to the area is really amping a lot of people up, I think.”
Goodyear Director of New Ventures Erin Spring attended the unveiling. The Endurance that debuted Thursday featured tires made by the Akron-based company. Goodyear says it’s buying Endurance trucks to integrate into its service fleet and has a strategic relationship with Lordstown Motors to collaborate on future tire intelligence opportunities.
Not in attendance Thursday was Gov. Mike DeWine, who attended a Wednesday preview event at the Lordstown plant, accompanied by with his wife, Fran, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
“Just absolutely amazing how fast this has happened,” DeWine said Wednesday. “I know for people in the Mahoning Valley it doesn't seem like it's happened fast enough, but to think how fast this has emerged.”
The closing of GM's Lordstown plant violated the terms of two state economic development agreements that the Big Three automaker signed more than a decade ago. But the state is not "actively seeking" to recover $60 million in public subsidies GM got for its Lordstown operations, DeWine said.
“What we are doing is having a very constructive discussion with General Motors about how we can turn that into things that are helpful to them, but also most important to us, to people in state of Ohio,” DeWine said, including other ways GM can create jobs in the state, he said.
Pence’s Thursday speech also briefly addressed the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and ongoing efforts to reopen the U.S. economy.
“I want you to know that it’s a testament to the resilience of the American people that, like here in Ohio and beyond, cases are stable and even declining,” Pence said. “And I want to say, the people of Ohio, and your Gov. Mike DeWine, have set a standard for the nation.”